In D.C., affordable Fort Lincoln still evokes its Great Society origins

The arrival of Costco in 2012 was a catalyst for business development. People outside Fort Lincoln became familiar with the neighborhood when it became a destination for shoppers from other areas of the city. But for those who have been involved in Fort Lincoln’s story from the start, Costco’s arrival and the subsequent retail boom has always been part of the master plan.

President Lyndon B. Johnson had hopes for Fort Lincoln to be a showcase for his Great Society programs — policy initiatives primarily aimed at abolishing inequality and establishing communities that would be racially and economically integrated. This “new town in town” as it became known, would be a mix of residential, retail and recreational opportunities.

In the wake of the riots that rocked the city in 1968, this plan became even more timely, and creating homes for the city’s vulnerable elderly citizens became a cornerstone of Fort Lincoln’s beginnings.

“Bringing in seniors and giving them a place to thrive was always part of the plan. Fort Lincoln now has the largest population of seniors living anywhere in the city,” says Bob King.

King served as a Fort Lincoln ANC Commissioner for 32 years and was involved in the neighborhood’s development after he moved there with his family in the 1970s. Fort Lincoln where there are several subsidized buildings and condos, remains committed to its senior citizens, although waiting lists can be years-long.

“We accommodate them and make sure they have the access they need. During elections we make sure they can get registered and bring a ballot box to each building, so the farthest they have to go to vote is down the elevator,” King says. “We partner with the local businesses for food donations during holidays.”

New businesses: Fort Lincoln has become an attractive spot for a diverse range of residents. Each year since Costco’s opening, new businesses have cropped up, including other big-box retailers such as Marshalls and Lowes and locally owned spots, such as Mecho’s Dominican Kitchen and Fort Lincoln Pharmacy.

In addition to the older residents, young families took advantage of the development boom — attracted by the commercial district and the comparatively affordable prices.

“When we started looking, we knew we wanted to be in D.C. but the cost of a home is so much more expensive than what we could afford coming from Florida,” says Kellie Bengtson, who moved to Fort Lincoln in 2015 with her husband and infant.

“I kept seeing these homes being built and at such an economical rate. When we came and saw it, we fell in love with the small-town-in-a-big-city feel plus there was a garage, a yard and several bedrooms.”

Not only were Fort Lincoln homes more affordable for their size compared with other areas (and remain so), but residents had the opportunity to have a say in homes that were being built. The Bengtsons were able to purchase their newly built three-bedroom, two-and a half-bathroom townhouse for around $450,000, while having input in the design touches.

Development in Fort Lincoln continues. One of the biggest projects is the construction of a new recreation center and an early childhood development center. The Theodore Hagans Cultural Center, which offers amenities such as a pottery room, an outdoor pool and tennis courts, will undergo renovations. Fort Lincoln Park provides green space, playgrounds, gazebos and picnic tables and will also go through modernization. In addition to this recreational and commercial expansion, further residential developments are in the planning stages.

Living there: Fort Lincoln is bounded by Bladensburg Road NE to the north, South Dakota Avenue NE to the west, New York Avenue NE to the south and the Maryland/D.C. border to the east. In the past six months, 23 homes have sold in Fort Lincoln, according to Keller Williams real estate agent Melissa Ebong. There are four homes on the market, ranging from a two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo for $389,900 to a four-bedroom, five-and a half-bathroom townhouse with designer touches and a private roof deck for $995,500.

Schools: Fort Lincoln’s Thurgood Marshall Elementary School was closed in 2013 because of underperformance. In-boundary options are Langdon Elementary, McKinley Middle and Dunbar High, although some Fort Lincoln parents choose to apply to lotteries at various schools around the city.

Transit: The Brookland/CUA Metro Station is 2.5 miles from Fort Lincoln and the Rhode Island Avenue/Brookland Metro Station is just under three miles away. Both are on the Red Line. Because there is no Metro stop in Fort Lincoln proper, many residents own cars or use ride-share services to reach other parts of the city.

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